Sporto, sports marketing & sponsorship conference, was a great two-day event held in Portoroz (Slovenia). It was a gathering of professionals from Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands (for sure I forgot someone and their homeland) with speakers…
It was a gathering of professionals from Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands (for sure I forgot someone and their homeland) with speakers who: a) almost invented sport marketing (Patrick Nally), b) took part in creating BBC News website, Man. City & UFC digital strategy (Richard Ayers) and c) led sponsorship for London 2012 sponsor (Sally Hancock)
While we will talk about best parts of conference in separate post, I wanted to write down 5 most important lessons learned during Sporto 2014.


1. Use strategic approach, not theoretical discussion

Richard Ayers’ (check first paragraph under b) ) presentation was an eye-opener. Among number of great things, he advised: “After you make a strategy, set up values to communicate, etc., don’t theorise too much. Try something. If that doesn’t work try something else. Life is too short to spend it on blabla”.
 That was a great argument for people who say “Strategies… That is something on the paper. Social media and digital is all about doing real stuff.”
Point: You need a strategy. But strategy is there to be changed. Doing activities without strategy is like painting without the idea of what are you creating (modern art lovers – don’t get involved).


2. It pays off to be different

Adidas had great problems in World Cup 2010 because of the ball – Jabulani. No one seems to like it. For Brazil 2014 Adidas created Brazuca. They saw that there is a trend of creating Twitter handles for “objects” (i.e. Super Bowl Lights or Anne Hathaway’s nipples). That is how @brazuca was created and the social media communication team (more than 100 Adidas employees) worked on @brazuca. Results? Adidas, their communication messages, etc. were mentioned 3x more times than their competition.
Vip mobile Serbia looked whom to sponsor while thinking through their communication strategy “Different story”. They have decided not to use highway route (football, basketball, Djokovic…) but to find some other story which is best fit for Vip. They chose volleyball and made the most out of it (even the Vip mobile Serbia CEO did the presentation in Serbia volleyball’s gear and not in suit).
Point: Don’t believe in hype. It is crowded where the hype is. We are in attention economy that looks for unique channels so your story can be heard.


3. Times changed, rules stayed the same

It seems like there are some new kids on the block but they are wearing t-shirts designed in 1970s. Main trigger for this “lesson” was Patrick Nally’s keynote speech during which he stated: “Sponsorship packages and the way biggest rightsholders are doing business, are the same as in 1970s when we created the whole thing.”
It is the same situation with social media or sponsorship activations. Facebook fan pages are being operated the same way as three years ago. In the meantime nothing changed, except Facebook CHANGED THE ORGANIC REACH. For great numbers of sponsors it is the same principle for years now. Create public outreach event, design t-shirts (with as big sponsor’s logo as possible) and publish brochures.
Point: We can’t drive Ford T-model and Toyota Prius Hybrid the same way. We have to change processes, habits and ways of looking at sport.


4. Early start and planning can help you. A lot

Lloyds was a national sponsor of Olympics 2012. They didn’t want to use big activation budget so they needed to come up with different approach. They started communicating their sponsorship in 2008 (One Olympic games before London). Final results were great, C-level Lloyds people were satisfied, etc.
Slovenian Olympic Committee didn’t have merchandising until Olympics 2008. They have started with activities related to merchandising back then and improved with each Winter or Summer Olympic games. Result was almost 20 thousand items sold during Sochi 2014, great design and positive relationship with the fans.
Point: Money is not the only reason for success or failure. Planning can help a lot. Especially when you have proactive and flexible team (hint hint).


5. Athletes – social media presence matters

When people who pay money talk you should listen. That was a situation while Thomas van Schaik (Global Brand Director, adidas) was on stage. There was a question about Leo Messi and him not being present on social networks. Tall Dutch said: “There is only one Leo Messi, the best football player in the world. He can ignore Twitter. But he is Messi. When thinking about sponsoring athletes we are definitely taking in consideration his/her social media presence and general communication style.”

Point: Athletes, it is 21st century. Sponsorships don’t include only taking photos for magazines. You are a brand. Or at least, you should be a brand.


Extra lesson – Prepare your presentation

Most of the stories told during Sporto 2014 were great and we were able to learn out of them. Some speakers just didn’t manage to overcome the hurdle of self-praise. You are presenting in front of professionals, not in front of high-school pupils. You don’t have to say “We are great”, just tell us your story and we will come to that conclusion on our own. Also, if the presentation is not custom-made and it is standard corporate presentation, take 3 minutes before to go through it and get to know slides.
Point: When people say during their presentation “We are the biggest company, we have zillion employees and this is our great project”, they actually build a wall between them and the audience. Be yourself and be authentic. Enjoy yourself on the stage.


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